Early Childhood

Infant & Toddler Mental Health:

Issues & Information for Educators


Instructor  Name:         Dr. Pamela Bernards, Ed.D.

Facilitator Name:         Aumony Dahl, M.Ed.

Phone:                         509-891-7219

Office Hours:              8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST Monday-Friday

Email:                          aumony_dahl@virtualeduc.com

Address:                      Virtual Education Software

                                    16201 E Indiana Ave, Suite 1450

                                    Spokane, WA 99216

Technical Support:       support@virtualeduc.com



Welcome to Infant & Toddler Mental Health: Issues & Information for Educators, an interactive computer-based instruction course designed to help you achieve a better understanding of infant and toddler mental health, child development, and strategies you can use to promote positive relationships with children and their families. This course provides information that will help you to understand and identify your role as a child care provider, educator, and early childhood professional. Infant & Toddler Mental Health will provide you with research-based information on early child development, attachment, temperament, and curriculum. This course also lists resources for both teachers and parents who would like more help or information about infant and toddler mental health.


This computer-based instruction course is a self-supporting program that provides instruction, structured practice, and evaluation all on your home or school computer.  Technical support information can be found in the Help section of your course.


Course Materials (Online)

Title:                Infant & Toddler Mental Health: Issues & Information for Educators  

Instructor:        Dr. Pamela Bernards, Ed.D.

Facilitator:        Aumony Dahl, M.Ed.

Publisher:         Virtual Education Software, inc. 2007, Revised 2010, Revised 2014


Academic Integrity Statement

The structure and format of most distance-learning courses presume a high level of personal and academic integrity in completion and submission of coursework. Individuals enrolled in a distance-learning course are expected to adhere to the following standards of academic conduct.


Academic Work

Academic work submitted by the individual (such as papers, assignments, reports, tests) shall be the student’s own work or appropriately attributed, in part or in whole, to its correct source. Submission of commercially prepared (or group prepared) materials as if they are one’s own work is unacceptable.


Aiding Honesty in Others

The individual will encourage honesty in others by refraining from providing materials or information to another person with knowledge that these materials or information will be used improperly.



Violations of these academic standards will result in the assignment of a failing grade and subsequent loss of credit for the course.


Level of Application

This course is designed to be an informational course with application to early childhood education or childcare settings. The curriculum and strategies presented are designed for children from birth to thirty-six months of age. Some alterations may be needed when working with children with sensory processing disorders or other developmental disabilities.


Course Objectives

·         To define infant and toddler mental health and explain why it is so important;

·         To discuss core concepts in early development from birth to thirty-six months;

·         To explore current research on brain development, including examining conditions for healthy development and the effect of adverse experiences;

·         To increase the ability to observe typically developing infants and toddlers, as well as to identify infants and toddlers with mental health issues;

·         To provide information and best practice methods used in the care of infants and toddlers and their families;

·         To increase knowledge in the research areas of attachment and temperament; and

·         To provide resources for early childhood educators and care-providers to help them strengthen the children and families with whom they work.


Course Description

The Infant & Toddler Mental Health course has been divided into four chapters that are designed to inform parents, professionals, and care providers by: providing an overview of the core concepts of early development; reviewing developmental milestones; exploring current research on brain development; examining what curriculum looks like for infants and toddlers; exploring the importance of early attachment; reviewing different temperament traits; and providing suggestions for strengthening families.  Upon completing this course you should have the basic framework for understanding the critical role of infant and toddler mental health, as well as developmental knowledge of children from birth to thirty-six months. 


Student Expectations 

As a student, you will be expected to:

·         Complete all information chapters, showing a competent understanding of the material presented.

·         Complete all chapter examinations, showing a competent understanding of the material presented.

·         Complete a review of any chapter on which your examination score was below 70%.

·         Retake any examination, after completing an information review, to increase that examination score to a minimum of 70% (maximum of three attempts). *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Complete all course journal article and essay writing assignments with the minimum word count shown for each writing assignment.

·         Complete a course evaluation form at the end of the course.


Course Chapters Overview

Chapter 1: Introduction to Infant & Toddler Mental Health

Chapter One is an Introduction to Infant & Toddler Mental Health.  In this chapter we will clarify what infant and toddler mental health is, discuss why it is so important, and review three core concepts of early development.  We will look at current research on brain development and discuss optimal conditions for the development of brain architecture in young children.  We will also look at the life-long implications that adverse early childhood experiences have on the developing brain.   Lastly, we will discuss how the interaction of biology, relationships, and environment impacts brain development in very young children, and review the core values that support the philosophy of this course.


Chapter 2: Overview of Early Child Development

In Chapter Two we will look at child development from infancy to thirty-six months.  We will briefly review what experts have to say about the following topics related to child development: child development theory, development of emotions, development of self, human development, SIDS, brain development, nutrition, development of vision and hearing, and finally, language development.


Chapter 3: Curriculum & the Classroom

In Chapter Three we will discuss the importance of infant and toddler curriculum. You will learn some vital information concerning curriculum, such as what is appropriate, what is meaningful, and what promotes the relationship between you, the child, and the child's family. We will review the latest information about play and how it benefits a child's development. Finally, we will discuss school-readiness and look at several key characteristics of school-ready children.


Chapter 4: Attachment, Temperament, & Families

In Chapter Four we will discuss the important role attachment plays in the development of young children.  We will discuss different types of attachment and examine several risk factors that impede healthy attachment in young children.  We will look at methods for fostering secure attachment. We will define temperament, examine specific temperament traits, and review research about the impact of temperament on child development.  We will discuss numerous practical strategies for supporting all children, regardless of their temperament. Finally, we will briefly discuss variables such as language and literacy, culture, gender, race, and socio-economic status that may influence connections with families (these variables will be thoroughly examined in another course in this series called Family-Centered Services).  We will explore ways in which we can work to strengthen families, which ultimately has a positive impact on the well-being of the children we serve.



At the end of each chapter, you will be expected to complete an examination designed to assess your knowledge. You may take these exams a total of three times. Your last score will save, not the highest score. After your third attempt, each examination will lock and prevent further access.  The average from your exam scores will be printed on your certificate.  However, this is not your final grade since your required writing assignments have not been reviewed.  Exceptionally written or poorly written required writing assignments, or violation of the academic integrity policy in the course syllabus, will affect your grade.  As this is a self-paced computerized instruction program, you may review course information as often as necessary. You will not be able to exit any examinations until you have answered all questions. If you try to exit the exam section before answering all questions, your information will be lost. You are expected to complete the entire exam in one sitting.


Writing Assignments

This course has two required writing components.  ALL ASSIGNMENTS ARE REVIEWED. Exceptionally or poorly written assignments, or violation of the academic integrity policy noted in the course syllabus, will affect your grade. Be sure to refer to the Grading Guidelines for Writing Assignments, sent as an attachment with your original course link.

It is highly recommended that you write and save all writing assignments in an external word processing program (such as Word or Notepad), and then copy and paste these into the course program so that you will have backup copies.

To save your essays:


When you select the question or article you wish to respond to, ‘Simple Text’ or ‘Text Edit’ will launch automatically. When you are finished entering your response, simply click SAVE. 

You must SAVE before you write another essay or move on to another part of the course.


1)       Essay Requirement: Critical Thinking Questions

There are four Critical Thinking Questions that you must complete. You will do research on the questions and write brief essay responses relating it to the course content (and your personal experiences, when possible).  To view the questions, click on REQUIRED ESSAY and choose the Critical Thinking Question that you are ready to complete; this will bring up a screen where you may enter your essay.  You must write a minimum of 500 words (maximum 1,000) per essay.  You may go back at any point to edit your essays, but you must be certain to click SAVE once you have completed your edits.

You must SAVE before you write another essay or move on to another part of the course.


2)   Essay Requirement: Journal Articles

This task requires you to write a review of three peer-reviewed or scholarly journal articles, preferably written by an author with a Ph.D. (blogs and news articles are not acceptable) of your choice on a topic related to this course.  You may choose your topic by entering the Key Words (click on the Key Words button) into a search engine of your choice (Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc.).  Choose three relevant articles and write a critical summary of the information given in each article, explaining how the information relates to, supports, or refutes information given in this course. Conclude your review with your thoughts and impressions (200 words per journal article minimum, 400 words maximum). Be sure to provide the journal name, volume, date, and any other critical information to allow the instructor to access and review that article.


To write your essays, click on REQUIRED ESSAY and choose the Journal Article that you would like to complete; this will bring up a screen where you can write your review. When you are ready to stop, click SAVE.  You may go back at any point to edit your essays, but you must be certain to click SAVE once you are done with your edits. For more information on the features of this assignment, please consult the HELP menu.

You must SAVE before you write another essay or move on to another part of the course.


Facilitator Description 

Aumony Dahl received her Master’s degree in Exceptional Children from Western Washington University.  She is certified to teach in K-12 Special Education with an additional endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education.  Aumony began her career working as an elementary special education teacher for several years.  She is currently an instructor in the Special Education Department at Western Washington University, teaching a variety of classes on topics related to early childhood special education, students with complex special needs, assessment and evaluation, and program planning.  Aumony is also a supervisor for practicum students who are training to become teachers. Please contact Professor Dahl if you have course content or examination questions.


Instructor Description 

Pamela Bernards has 30 years of combined experience in diverse PK-8 and high school settings as a teacher and an administrator.  In addition to these responsibilities, she was the founding director of a K-8 after school care program and founder of a pre-school program for infants to 4-year-olds to address all early childhood issues.  When she was a principal, her school was named a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.  More recently, the school in which she serves as curriculum coordinator was named a 2010 Blue Ribbon School.  Areas of interest include curriculum, research-based teaching practices, staff development, assessment, data-driven instruction, and instructional intervention with exceptional populations.  She received a doctorate in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University.  Please contact Professor Dahl if you have course content or examination questions.


Contacting the Facilitator

You may contact the facilitator by emailing the Professor Dahl at aumony_dahl@virtualeduc.com or calling her at 509-891-7219, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. PST. Phone messages will be answered within 24 hours. Phone conferences will be limited to ten minutes per student, per day, given that this is a self-paced instructional program. Please do not contact the instructor about technical problems, course glitches, or other issues that involve the operation of the course.


Technical Questions

If you have questions or problems related to the operation of this course, please try everything twice. If the problem persists please check our support pages for FAQs and known issues at www.virtualeduc.com and also the Help section of your course.


If you need personal assistance then email support@virtualeduc.com or call (509) 891-7219.  When contacting technical support, please know your course version number (it is located at the bottom left side of the Welcome Screen) and your operating system, and be seated in front of the computer at the time of your call. 


Minimum Computer Requirements

Please refer to VESi’s website: www.virtualeduc.com or contact VESi if you have further questions about the compatibility of your operating system.


Refer to the addendum regarding Grading Criteria, Course Completion Information, Items to be Submitted and how to submit your completed information. The addendum will also note any additional course assignments that you may be required to complete that are not listed in this syllabus.


Bibliography (Suggested Readings):

Ainsworth, M., & Bowlby, J. (1965). Child care and the growth of love. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Berk, L. (2005). Infants and children (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C. (Eds.). (1997). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs (Rev. ed.). Washington, D.C.: NAEYC.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (n.d.).  InBrief: The impact of early adversity on children's development. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2011, September 29). Three core concepts in early development [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNNsN9IJkws&list

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2011). Building the brain’s “Air Traffic Control” system: How early experiences shape the development of executive function: Working paper no. 11. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2011). Working paper #11: Building the brain's "air traffic control" system: How early experiences shape the development of executive function. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/reports_and_working_papers

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2012). The science of neglect: The persistent absence of responsive care disrupts the developing brain: Working paper 12. Retrieved from www.developingchild

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014a). Inbrief: Early childhood mental health. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/briefs/inbrief_series/inbrief

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014b). Key concepts: Brain architecture. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/brain_architecture/

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014c). Key concepts: Executive function. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/executive_function/

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014d). Key concepts: Serve and return. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/serve_and_return/

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014e). Key concepts: Toxic stress. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/toxic_stress_response/

Early Head Start school readiness: It’s all about relationships. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://comfortconsults.com/blog/bid/265244/Early-Head-Start-School-Readiness-It-s-All-About-Relationships

Elkind, D. (2001). The hurried child: Growing up too fast too soon (3rd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Goossens, F., & van Ijzendoorn, M. (1990). Quality of infants’ attachment to professional caregivers: Relation to infant-parent attachment and day-care characteristics. Child Development, 61, 832-837. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624

Gonzalez-Mena, J., & Widmeyer Eyer, D. (2001). Infants, toddlers, and caregivers (5th ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

Hanline, M. F., Wetherby, A., Woods, J., Fox, L., & Lentini, R. (2005). Positive beginnings: Supporting young children with challenging behavior. Tallahassee, FL: Positive Beginnings.

Heidemann, S., & Hewitt, D. (1992) Pathways to play. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Jakobsen, I., Horwood, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (2012). Childhood anxiety/withdrawal, adolescent parent-child attachment and later risk of depression and anxiety disorder. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 21(2), 303-310.

Landy, S. (2002). Pathways to competency: Encouraging health social and emotional development in young children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks.

National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation. (2007). Early childhood program evaluations: a decision-maker’s guide. Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2008/2012). Establishing a level foundation for life: Mental health begins in early childhood: Working paper 6 (Updated ed.) Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (1998). Guide to accreditation. Washington, D.C.: Author.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (1997). The effects of infant child care on infant-mother attachment security: Results of the NICHD study of early childcare. Early Childcare Research Network. Child Development, 68, 860-879. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1997.tb01967.x

McLeod, S. (2008). Mary Ainsworth. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology

Mendoza, J., Katz, L., Roberston, A. S., & Rothenburg, D. (2003). Connecting with parents in the early years. Champaign: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Pawl, J. H., & Dombro, A. L. (2001). Learning and growing together with families: Partnering with parents to support young children’s development. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three.

Pbworks. (n.d.). What is early childhood social and emotional development? Retrieved from http://pelicbooks.pbworks.com/w/file/35671727/What%20Is%20Early%20Childhood%20Social%20and%20Emotional%20Development.doc

Petersen, S. (2012). Approaches to learning: Supporting brain development for school success. Zero to Three Journal, 33(1), 24-27.

Powers, S. (2012). From research to practice: Strategies for supporting school readiness in programs serving infants and toddlers. Zero to Three, 3(1), 37-42. Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree.org/zttjournal/index-listing/sept-12-ednote-toc.pdf

Powers, S. (2012a). Introduction. Zero to Three, 3(1), 2. Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree.org

Rogers, S., & Sawyers J. (1988). Play in the lives of children. Washington, D.C.: NAEYC.

Sagi, A., Koren-Karie, N., Gini, M., Ziv, Y., & Joels, T. (2002). Shedding further light on the effects of various types and quality of early childcare on infant-mother attachment relationship: The Haifa study of early childcare. Child Development, 73, 116-1186. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00465

Schaffer, H. R., & Emerson, P. E. (1964). The development of social attachments in infancy. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 29, 94.

Zeanah, C. H. (Ed.). (2009). Handbook of infant mental health (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Zero to Three. (n.d.) From science to public policy: Promoting policies that support early childhood emotional and social development. Retrieved from http://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer

Zero to Three. (n.d.). Getting ready for school begins at birth. Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree

Zero to Three. (n.d.). The school-ready child (infographic). Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree

Zero to Three. (2005). Diagnostic classification of mental health and developmental disorders of infancy and early childhood: Revised edition. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three Press. Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree.org/

Zigler, E., Singer, D., & Bishop-Josef, S. (Eds.). (2004). Children’s play: The roots of reading. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three Press.

Additional References:

Ainsworth, M. D. S., & Bell, S.M.  (1970). Attachment, exploration, and separation: Illustrated by the behavior of one-year-olds in a strange situation. Child Development, 41, 49-67. doi:10.2307/1127388

Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28, 759-775. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.28.5.759

Clothier, S., Cohen, J., Onunaku, N., & Poppe, J. (2005, September).  Helping young children succeed: Strategies to promote early childhood social and emotional development. Early Childhood Research and Policy Report to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Onunaku, N. Improving maternal and infant mental health: Focus on maternal depression. (2005). Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Infant and Early Childhood Health Policy at UCLA.

Parlakian, P., & Seibel, N. L. (2002). Building strong foundations, practical guidance for promoting the social-emotional development of infants and toddlers. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three Press.

Shonkoff, J., & Phillips, D. (Eds.). (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


Websites Used:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/

National Association for the Education of Young Children: http://www.naeyc.org/

Strengthening Families: http://www.strengtheningfamiliesprogram.org/

ZERO TO THREE: http://www.zerotothree.org/

Course content is updated every three years. Due to this update timeline, some URL links may no longer be active or may have changed. Please type the title of the organization into the command line of any Internet browser search window and you will be able to find whether the URL link is still active or any new link to the corresponding organization's web home page.


Updated 10/9/14 JN